Gait Analysis: What To Expect

Posted by on Friday, April 26th, 2013

Our ability to run seems as natural as our ability to walk. We simply put one foot before the other and speed it up a little. Yet some medical professionals say the thoughtlessness of running could yield big problems down the line.

“So many runners just run. So many people look at a (fitness) magazine and say ‘I can do that.’ Then they get hurt and wonder why,” said Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist and author of Anatomy for Runners. “If we prepare ourselves we’ll do a better job,” he adds.

Whether it’s posture, poor foot control or over-striding, a gait analysis can be a great place to start improving your step. While this type of test is most commonly associated with long-distance runners, it’s not exclusive. Research shows that gait analysis is important in assessing and treating conditions like Alzheimer’s and arthritis too.

Who Needs Gait Analysis?

Gait analysis can provide valuable insight for runners looking to improve their speed and performance. Yet, gait analysis can also reveal abnormalities caused by disease or injury and help people who suffer from pain in their backs, hips, knees, ankles, feet, legs, or neck.

Speech therapy is helpful for cerebral palsy sufferers, but so is gait analysis. In 2003, a UK study of gait analysis found that this type of test was helpful in identifying cerebral palsy patients who needed surgical intervention. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles concluded that “clinical gait analysis is associated with a lower incidence for additional surgery” in cerebral palsy patients and, therefore, resulted in “lesser disruption to patients’ lives.”

Arthritic patients can also benefit from gait analysis — both before and after treatments are administered. A 2001 study from Japan concluded that “techniques such as biokinetic gait analysis can provide practical information about functional joint integrity in [the rheumatoid arthritis] patient population that could aid in therapeutic decision making.”

There have been a number of studies in recent times identifying a link between cognitive function and gait. One study of 1,153 Alzheimer’s patients, conducted by researchers at the Basel Mobility Center in Switzerland, found that slower walking speed was linked with cognitive decline. The study’s lead author, Dr. Stephanie Bridenbaugh, issued a statement testifying that: “Gait analysis can simply, quickly and objectively measure walking.” She added, “When problems emerge, this may provide early detection of fall risk and the earliest stages of cognitive impairment in older adults.” A second study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that patients with lower cadence, speed and stride length were predictive of declines in cognition, executive function, and memory 15 months later.

Many of the people we see here at the NYC Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine are experiencing chronic pain and would like a clearer picture of all the factors which may be contributing to that pain. Gait analysis is an excellent way to see just what is going on.

How To Prepare For Gait Analysis

  • If you’ve never been to the clinic before, bring relevant medical records and test results from your primary doctor with you.
  • Wear comfortable shorts and your usual footwear. If you’ve recently changed footwear, bring your old pair too.
  • Plan to pay about $150 for the gait analysis (which includes a follow-up visit) — which is the same as a good pair of running shoes.

You may also want to consider asking some of the following questions at your appointment:

  • Would custom orthotics help improve my gait?
  • Are there any athletic activities that could help me?
  • Are there any athletic activities I should avoid?
  • Should I do any particular stretches each day?
  • Do you think my shoes are contributing to my problem?
  • Which type of shoes would you recommend?
  • Are there any OTC remedies I should look into?
  • What is my condition called, and where can I find more information about it?
  • How long will it take to see results from my treatment?

What Happens At Gait Analysis?

Our gait analysis procedure usually takes about an hour. First, you’ll be asked some basic questions about your day-to-day activities, such as: What surfaces do you regularly walk or run on? How many miles a week do you run? Do you use or have you ever used orthotics? Have you had any injuries? Where are you feeling pain? We’ll measure your feet and conduct a visual assessment your legs’ bone alignment, just as your general physician might. We can have you stand on a pad to check your arches and balance. We can also see where your weight is placed when you stand.

Next, you will need to take 10 consecutive steps without any assistance to achieve effective results. As you walk, we’ll examine your step length, stride length, cadence and cycle time. Runners in relatively good shape can jog on a treadmill. Through high-tech 3D video motion analysis, we’ll take joint angle measurements at normal and high speeds. Rather than use the naked eye to asses, we use 5,000 sensors on a mat that can calculate your foot step pattern and speed more precisely, as well as check the force and pressure of your steps.

Lastly, you’ll get to see the video played back, as we explain our findings. We’ll discuss all the various treatment options and give you some time to decide what you’d like to do.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.